Day 14: Bracero & Farmworker Mural

The objective of today was to arrive in time to beat any sunlight in order to trace out the image of a Toltec sculpture that will be placed on the single column near the entrance to the San Juan Municipal pool. Know as the Atlantean Tula, these statues represent Toltec warriors holding darts, knifes, and other armory. In Nahuatl, the language used by Aztecs, Toltec translates to “artisan,” thus making it a fitting and relevant piece to the mural.

The crew outlined the column using a projector this morning. The figure will be monochromatic in color as to give it a stone appearance. Eddie Quintero, Norma Perez, and Erica Herrera sketched, mapped, and painted the Toltec warrior through out the morning and afternoon.




Austin artist Camille Gerhardt uses a picture from the Codex Borgia to paint in Tlaloc, the god of rain, above the feild. Working for hours atop a scaffold, Camille continues to produce impressive details that has given the mural a rich asthetic look. There are now three Aztec images on the north wall while our Toltec warrior wraps around the column sustaining the second level of the municipal pool.



Gaining media attention, Raul Valdez and his crew have been interviewed by UTPA’s public relations team, the Monitor newspaper, FOX channel 9 news, and most recently chanel 23. UTPA graphic design student Erica Herrera, a native of San Juan, gives channel 23 her perspective on the project. Image



With a masters in fine arts from UTPA, Eddie Quintero has delivered a depth of knowledge to this process. Additionally, he would like to use this experience as a starting point to future murals in the Rio Grande Valley. It is our hope that other cities in the area also embrace similar culturally and socially relevant murals.


Raul and Camille find some shade and cool off after a productive day.


End of day 14:




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Day 13: Bracero & Farmworker Mural


Agricultural labor continues to be one of the most strenuous, hazardous, and underpaid industries in the country. According to the United Stated Department of Labor, the median income from farmwork was between $2,500 and $5,000 a year. Three-fourths earned less than $10,000 annually. The agricultural industry is the second most profitable industries making over $400 billion in profits each year. Simultaneously those men and women who work hours and days in the fields of Texas, Michigan, Ohio, Florida, California, and many other states are the familes who harvest the food we eat each day. Have you thanked a farmworker?

Below, Raul Valdez speaks with Fox news anchor and UTPA Alumni Jessica Montoya in an interview that will air June 12th at 7:00 am on chanel 9 in the Rio Grande Valley.



Camille Gerhardt and Norma Perez work on providing great detail to the crops near the lower left corner of the North wall.



Erica Herrera works to complete the outline for Tonatiuh.


Both Eddie Quintero and Camille Gerhardt did a tremendous job on the fruits and vegetables falling off a produce truck. Both worked on the rail road tracks as to give it a more life like appearance.



As the heat advisory continues this diligent team of UTPA students, alumni, and artist continue to impress community members from across the Rio Grande Valley who are now aware of thier mural.


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Day 12: Bracero & Farmworker Mural

Organizing farmworkers in South Texas in the mid 70’s, Antonio Orendain established the Texas Farm Worker Union. Advocating for a more just and humane treatment of farmworkers, Mr. Orendain has made great efforts to give voice to agricultural workers in Texas.
In February 1977 union members began a 420-mile march from San Juan, Texas to the capital at Austin. That same year, Orendain led forty union members on a 1,600-mile march from Austin to Washington, DC. The journey started in June 1977 and ended at the steps of the Lincoln Memorial September. On June 11th, 2012 Mr. Orendain witnessed his grandson, Joseph A. Orendain, participate in the creation of a mural that presents a narrative very similar to the legacy he continues to live today. Gently smiling, Mr. Orendain reminisces his experiences as an activist with muralist Raul Valdez. Exchanging a few laughs Raul recollects playing his guitar in solidarity with those marching towards Washington D.C.





Much of the morning was dedicated to filling in negative space. Accompanied by his nieces and nephews, math teacher, Guillermo Hernandez continues to share the importance of the muralism and community engagement with them.




The team of UTPA student painters returned this afternoon. As the sun descends Erica Herrera sketches out silhouettes of farmworkers marching in protest for their rights.


Sketching out the next phase of the project, our artist continue to share and compare ideas for what would best connect the North and East wall.


Nearing the end of the day Camille etches out Tlaloc while Erica begins to work on Tonatiuh.



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Day 11: Bracero & Farmworker Mural

Guided by Raul Valdez, UTPA students and alumni pose for the city of San Juan’s Facebook page. Residents of the Rio Grande Valley have stopped by to take pictures on their mobile devices and often state they are sharing these photographs with relatives across the state and nation.


Clouds added by Eddie Quintero & Raul Valdez will eventually lead to a portrait of Tlaloc, the Aztec god of rain.



Parachute cloth was primed today in order to efficiently work on the top section of the North wall. Mr. Valdez stated he wanted to portray a dignified family standing next to a graduate and perhaps incorporating a distinctive Ph.D. gown to show the community that we are capable of attaining such degrees.




Final images at the end of two weeks worth of work:




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Day 10: Bracero & Farmworker Mural

Working to the cumbias of Fito Olivarez the team begins to fill in the deep creases in the brick to get the best results for the mural. Using concrete filler UTPA students and alumni assist the Austin duo in completing what will be the first mural in the Rio Grande Valley that honors braceros. Community members continue to approach the site with gratitude and at times suggestions. Many have stated that they have never seen anything like this in the valley and are glad that the city of San Juan, TX has taken on the project with open arms. Children walking into the pool can be heard asking their parents “what is that? Why are those people getting sprayed?” It is our responsibility to answer these questions sought out by our future leaders.


Facing the challenge of painting the air vent located at the center of the locomotive, Steve Morin, uses spray paint to get better results as opposed to traditional paint brushing. 20120608-103323.jpg20120608-103331.jpg

Representatives from L.U.P.E. stop by today to see the progress. Earlier in the week the team took some time and toured the L.U.P.E. headquarters to reflect on the murals that exist in their building. The images were very impressive, powerful, and gave a narrative that is of great importance to farmworkers. We give thanks for their hospitality and also for some much needed refreshments brought to the mural site on this hot summer day. 20120608-112224.jpg





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Day 9: Bracero & Farmworker Mural

The efforts and hard work of all those involved with the mural continues to be recognized through out the Rio Grande Valley. The front page of the monitor gives a summary of how the mural became a reality in the city of San Juan, TX. The link is provided here:

Train tracks will be added today by Austin artist Camille Gerhardt. The idea to use the circular air vent as the front of a locomotive was also inspired by Camille early last week. Thus far it has provided an important illustration for the narrative of the mural. Many of the details along the wall have been a collaboration between our Austin artist and UTPA students. More importantly the over all theme is a reflection of the request by the surrounding community.



The use of smart phones have been of great help for our artist as they pull up photographs of different images through out the project. Taking shade under a scaffold we see Erica Herrera and Norma Perez looking up a picture of squash, carrots, and cucumbers.



Swimming lessons continue through the morning hours. Many parents have stopped and complimented the artists before entering the pool. Below, a father stops to take a closer look at the work being done.


Members of the community stopped by after reading about the mural in the newspaper to see for themselves. Representatives from UTPA also took some time to interview those working on the bracero & farmworker mural project. In many instances the students response to why they are participating in this project was to give value and recognition the work braceros and farmworkers do. Also notable, these students have grandfathers who came to the United States under the bracero program. Connecting to their own family experience these young men and women hope to restore a part of history that has been omitted from traditional and contemporary textbooks.


Norma Perez interviewed by UTPA



Dr. Stephanie Alvarez asking our young participants as to their thoughts of the mural.


Community members come out to see the mural upon hearing of its progress and at times put their brushes to work.



End of day 9:



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Day 8: Bracero & Farmworker Mural

Scaffolds were brought in today to continue painting on the far left side of the north wall. Vines appear to be flowing down then upward towards the highest point of the building. The top right corner where the vines will continue to stretch out will feature Tonatiuh, the Aztec sun god. Illustrated below is Erica Herrera, Norma Perez, & Eddie Quintero working together in assembling the scaffolds that were generously lent to us by Jose Duval Flores. Many thanks to the Flores family for their help in this project.



Another new development can be seen on the right hand side of the train located below the two rows of braceros. The image depicts a bracero exposing his hands as part of the inspection and registration that took place prior to their approval for work in the United States. Callus on the hands was often seen as a requirement and proof of previous fieldwork experience.


Eddie Quintero and Erica Herrera work on fruits and vines on north wall.


Mr. Nathan Lambrecht stop by to take some photographs for a story that will be featured in the Monitor newspaper on 6/7/12.


End of Day 8:



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Day 7: Bracero & Farmworker Mural

It’s opening day at the San Juan Municipal pool. The mural will serve as a welcoming image for all those who use the municipal park and swimming pool. Erica Herrera and Norma Perez continue to paint on Tuesday morning.


Stopping by today was Salinas Elementary 5th grade teacher Guillermo Hernandez. Mr. Hernandez brought his niece and nephews to help paint in order to expose them to murals and to remind them of the type of work their grandfather endured in his life time. “It’s important that they know where our family comes from. Also I want them to know what murals are and why they are important for our community.” Thank you Mr. Hernandez for your efforts and well hearted guidance.



After a few hours of work the crew enjoys a breezy lunch at the San Juan Municipal park.


Norma Perez takes a photograph of Raul’s arm in order to draw a more accurate fist on the farmworker centered on the north wall.


Norma also sketched out an air craft flying over the fields that will soon depict pesticides sprayed across rows of crops. Farmworkers have been exposed to these toxic fumes that have caused many to have deplorable health conditions.


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Day 6: Bracero & Farmworker Mural

A major change in the development of the mural occurred over the weekend. The hands at the center of the north wall will be replaced with a much more powerful image. Muralist Raul Valdez holds a sketch of what will be the new focal point of the bracero and farmworker experience.


With this change UTPA students Erica Herrera, Norma Perez, and alumni Eddie Quintero coordinate the next phase of the mural. This group of talented individuals have provided an immense amount of work and dedication to what they hope will reflect the bracero and farmworkers experience. Their sketches have been incorporated through out the North wall.




Despite a demanding academic schedule, UTPA professor Dr. Stephanie Alvarez has dedicated her time to take food and water out to the group and at time has helped in the painting process. Thank you Dr. Alvarez for your exemplarily work in our community.


Changes were also added to the left side of the wall by Eddie Quintero as he replaced the crates of fruit. The fruit appears to be falling off of a truck and better fits the flow of the mural.


At the end of day six:




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Day 5: Bracero & Farmworker Mural

It’s June in the city of San Juan, TX! The heat is definitely on but it is not detouring our UTPA students from tackling the bracero mural. Arriving at 7:00 am, these dedicated folks are committed to the completion of this historic art piece.


Here we see Eddie giving detail to the onions, tangerines, and oranges that were common fruits and vegetables cultivated by farmworkers.


Muralist Raul Valdez overseeing the project as it develops on the first day of June.


Steve finds the perfect solution to fight the heat as he continues to work on the east wall.



El Retorno de Julian! We are glad to see our new friend back for his second day of painting. Documenting the progress is Christian Ramirez.


Some shade was provided by the scaffolds and a tent. As the mural begins to progress towards the East we can now see a more colorful wall. People of all ages are pictured here working on the wall.


The end of day five.



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